[New Adelphi]The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1118, p. 520.
November 23, 1861
New Adelphi.—The long-announced production or "The Octoroon," the new sensation drama by Mr. Boucicault, took place on Monday before a crowded audience which filled the house to the ceiling. The scene is in Louisiana, where the Octoroon, or "eighth blood," is not allowed by law to marry with a white person; and the interest of the plot is based on this circumstance. Zoe, the natural daughter of Judge Peyton, has been reared in luxury but not fully emancipated, and on the death of her father is exposed to the machinations of a rascally overseer, Jacob M'Closkey (Mr. Emery), who, having mismanaged the estate, has an interest in forcing on its sale, with the slaves belonging to it, that he may purchase Zoe, and subdue her to his unwelcome passion. George Peyton, the nephew of the Judge and heir to the property (Mr. Billington), seeks naturally to avoid the sale, and expects daily a remittance from Liverpool sufficient to satisfy all demands. M'Closkey takes measures to prevent the packet from reaching his hands in time, in consequence of which the slaves are sold. A slave auction accordingly forms the grand sensation scene of the drama, which is conducted with all the formalities accompanying such transactions in Southern America, and forms a most exciting tableau. M'Closkey outbids all intending purchasers for the fair Octoroon, and becomes her possessor. But, in his attempt to retard the delivery of the letter to Peyton, he has incurred a guilt for which he is destined to punishment. He has murdered a negro lad who was in charge of the post-bag; and a picture of the act has been accidentally taken by a photographic machine which was being worked in the vicinity. He falls into the clutches of Lyncn law, and is confined on board a steamer pending his execution. To effect his escape he hurls a lantern among some tar-barrels, and thus causes an explosion. But an avenging Indian is on his track, and slays him on the grave of the poor negro whom he had murdered. And all might now be well, but that Zoe, ignorant of these facts, has taken poison in despair. The drama is placed on the stage with all the accessories that can conduce to a great and marked success, and is illustrated with local scenery of great beauty. The composition itself is distinguished by a lightness and elegance of touch which compensates for whatever is revolting in the action. The whole was capitally performed. Mr. Emery was remarkably impressive in M'Closkey, and Mr. Boucicault as tim Yankee overseer, who afterwards turns photographer, was characteristically made up, and sustained his part with great humour. Mrs. Boucicault, as the heroine, excited so much interest that the audience were scarcely reconciled to her failing a victim in order to point more effectually the moral of the drama. We certainly recognise no aesthetic necessity for such a dénouement, but rather the contrary, and think that the author would have found his account in a happier ending. Mr. Billington, as the hero, was pathetic and gentlemenly; and the other parts were well supported, particularly that of an old negro, by Mr. George Jamison, and that of the Indian, by Mr. Phillips. The female parts, also, were well filled by Mrs. Marston and Miss Latimer. Miss Clara Denvil, as the poor murdered negro-lad, acted with her usual grace and spirit The success of the piece was decided.